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Capital Punishment

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Capital Punishment, The Right or Wrong Thing to do?

Support for the death penalty in the U.S. has risen to an average of 80% according to an article written by Richard Worsnop entitled, "Death penalty debate centers on Retribution." Capital punishment is the execution of criminals by the state for committing heinous crimes such as rape and murder. It is proven that Capital punishment lowers the murder rate and just its use as a retribution alone is good enough reason for handing out death sentences. The debates over the merits of capital punish has endured for years, and continues to be an extremely indecisive and complicated issue. Society must be kept safe from these killers by taking away their function in our society, but at the same time we must ensure that the innocent people are never convicted or sentenced to death for a crime that they did not commit. Perhaps the most frequent argument for capital punishment is that of deterrence. The prevailing thought is that imposition of the death penalty will act to discourage other criminals from committing violent acts. Numerous studies have been created attempting to prove this belief. In addition, with the growing sympathy of modern society, the number of inmates actually put to death is substantially lower than 50 years ago. This fact that it was more safe back then than it is now probably has to due with the fact that in earlier times, where capital punishment was common, the value of life was less, and societies were more barbaric, capital punishment was probably quite acceptable. However, in today's society, which is becoming ever more increasingly humane, and individual rights and due process of justice are held in high accord, the death penalty is becoming an unrealistic form of punishment. Also, with the ever present possibility of mistaken execution, there will remain the question of innocence of those put to death. This decline creates a situation in which the death penalty ceases to be a deterrent when the populace begins to think that one can get away with the crime and go unpunished. Also, the less that the death sentence is used, the more it becomes unusual, thus coming in conflict with the eighth amendment. This is essentially a dilemma, in which the less the death penalty is used, the less society can legally use it. The end result is a punishment that ceases to deter any crime at all. Many contend that the use of capital punishment as a form of deterrence does not work, as there are no fewer murders in states that have the death penalty, then those states that do not have the death penalty. In order for capital punishment to work as deterrence, certain events must be present in the criminal's mind prior to committing the offense. The criminal must be aware that others have been punished in the past for the same offense that he or she is planning, and that what happened to that individual who committed that offense could also happen to them. Sometimes this works and sometimes the individuals who commit any types of crime ranging from auto theft to first degree murder, never take account the consequences of their actions. Deterrence to crime is rooted in the individuals themselves. Every human has a personal set of morals. How much they will and will not tolerate. How far they will and will not go. This personal set of morals can be made or broken by friends, influence, family, home, and a person's life. An individual, who is never taught some sort of restraint as a child, will probably never understand any limit as to what they can do, until they have learned it themselves. This is where the death penalty would come into good use if it were used more often. The death penalty deters murder by putting fear into would be killers such as the ones just described that have not learned a limit on to what they can do. A person is less likely to do something, if he or she thinks that harm will come to them. Another way the death penalty deters murder, is the fact that if the killer is dead, he will not be able to kill again. Most supporters of the death penalty feel that offenders should be punished for their crimes, and that it does not matter whether it will deter crime rate. Supporters of the death penalty are in favor of making examples out of offenders, and that the threat of death will be enough to deter the crime rate. There are those who claim that capital punishment is itself a form of vengeance on the killer, but isn't locking up a human being behind steel bars for many years, vengeance itself? Is it humane to give an individual who took the life of another, heating, clothing, indoor plumbing, and three meals a day, while a homeless person who has harmed no one receives nothing? Adversaries of capital punishment claim that it is far more humane then having the state take away the life of the individual. IN February 1963, Gary McCorkell, a 19 year old sex offender, was scheduled to hang, but just days before his execution, the then liberal cabinet of Lester Person commuted McCorkell to life in prison. Less than 20 years later, McCorkell was arrested, tried, and convicted for the kidnapping and raping of a 10-year old Tennessee boy. He was sentenced to 63 years in prison. Had McCorkell been executed in 1963, that boy would have never had to go through the horror of being sexually abused. These individuals may themselves become sex offenders, as many sex offenders were sexually abused as children. McCorkell may have been a victim of sexually assault in the past, but that does not justify what he did. He did not do this once, but did this continually, killing two boys, and assaulting two others, leaving one for dead. He knew exactly what he was doing. What right does this man have to live? He has ruined the lives of four children, what will he do in life that will compensate for that? What kind of a life would the state have been taking in this case? This life is surely not an innocent life, nor forgiving, nor one that was in the area of reform and cared to be. According to Isaac Ehrlich's study, eight murders are deterred for each execution that is carried out in the U.S. He goes on to say, " if one execution of guilty capital murderer deters the murder of one innocent life, the execution is justified." To most supporters of the death penalty, like Ehrlich, if even one life is saved, for countless executions of the guilty, it is good reason for the death penalty. Most supporters, including Ehrlich consider the theory that society engages in murder when executing the guilty, is invalid. He feels that execution of convicted offenders expresses the great value society places on innocent life. In a study done by Professor Stephen K. Layson of the University of North Carolina, showed to be on the low side of the deterrence factor of capital punishment. Professor Layson found that 18 murderers



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